What would you do if you could control gravity? Would you float everywhere? Hurl boulders at people? Yell all the time about a mysterious melody that haunts your every semi-lucid moment? Overwatch’s newest hero, the unhinged, accidentally evil astrophysicist Sigma, can do all of that and more. He’s fun to play, but he definitely takes some getting used to.
When I first started playing Sigma on Overwatch’s PC public test server earlier today, I felt uncomfortable. Despite the fact that his notably naked toesie-wosies hover about a foot off the ground at all times, he moves at a glacial pace, like most tanks. His primary attack—two “Hypersphere” projectiles that look like they were stolen from a Destiny merchandise stand—also travels a bit more slowly and arcs in a more exaggerated fashion than you might initially expect, and it has a fairly limited range.
Taken together, these things make him feel a little awkward, perhaps even vulnerable. This makes sense: He’s a barely-coherent old man whose powers come from his mind, not his brittle body. Even in those early uncomfortable moments, though, Sigma begins to reveal just how tricksy he can be. His orbs, for example, ricochet off walls, and even if they don’t nail a target square between the eyes, their impact results in an area-of-effect distortion that pulls enemies ever so slightly toward them. This can be used to disrupt aim.
It’s the rest of Sigma’s kit that turns him into a potential force to be reckoned with, though I’m still unsure how well he’ll mesh with other tanks right now. Most importantly, he has a portable shield, which likely means players will use him as a main tank like Reinhardt, Winston, and Orisa. Like his other abilities, his shield takes some getting used to. It’s similar to the floating shield Symmetra had several thousand major and minor revisions ago, except that Sigma can stop his wherever he wants and recall it with a quick button press. It’s versatile, but it has some drawbacks. You’ve got to recall it and not re-deploy it in order for it to start recharging, and it has a cooldown after it’s been busted. This means you can’t be quite as reactive as when you’re playing, say, Reinhardt, and you’ve got to have good positional awareness, because Sigma is a sitting duck without a glowing blue wall to hide behind.
Despite an almost complete lack of mobility abilities, Sigma can, to a limited extent, mitigate threats from enemies who get all up in his face. Two of his most interesting abilities, Kinetic Grasp and Accretion, serve multiple purposes. The former allows him to freeze projectiles in midair and convert them into additional shields for his HP bar, while the latter lets him smash bull-rushing fools with a big ol’ rock, resulting in a brief stun.
Both can be used to buy you some time when enemies are crashing into your personal space, but they’re also versatile tools in their own rights. Currently, Kinetic Grasp can eat powerful ults like Zarya’s Graviton Surge and Hanzo’s Dragonstrike, à la D.Va’s Defense Matrix. Sigma’s ability does, however, have a longer cooldown and more limited range than D.Va’s devourer of all things big and flashy, so hopefully he won’t slurp up the game’s balance, too. Accretion, meanwhile, actually has better range than Sigma’s regular attack, though you’ve got to be smart about how you arc it.
Then there’s his ult, which seems, at this early phase, pretty darn monstrous. Sigma rises into the air, temporarily gaining an enormous boost in mobility. While in this state, he can select a large, circular area of space on the ground. Enemies in this area will be lifted up into the air and slammed down, knocking off 50 percent of their full health total. Not only is this devastating from a damage perspective, but it can be used to move entire teams out from behind shields or lift them off points they’d bunkered down on. It can also combo extremely nicely with abilities ranging from Roadhog’s hook to McCree’s “Deadeye” ult. It feels like an absolute tide-turner, although I haven’t gotten to test it as much as I’d like in conjunction with other heroes since, surprise, everyone on the PTR is playing Sigma right now.
Sigma’s only been playable for part of today, meaning he’s still buried under a heap of questions so dense that not even his airborne feetsies can breathe. How will he synergize with other heroes and compositions, especially with the game-changing 2-2-2 role lock just around the corner? Are his abilities tuned well, or will they need some nerfing and buffing before he hits live servers? Why does he not wear shoes? I mean, on the one hand, if I could float, I guess I wouldn’t need them, but on the other hand I wouldn’t be floating through a series of bullet-riddled battlefields that have already claimed countless feet as casualties.
For now, though, Sigma is certainly a complex and unique tank, even if some of his abilities hearken back to ideas that Overwatch has already experimented with before. I’m excited to see what players do with him once he’s in the fray for real.
Video game characters love their bows and arrows, but I hate to be the bearer of bad news—almost all of them are terrible at archery. As an archer myself, I’ve had to spend a lot of time teaching and observing the sport, so I thought it might be appropriate to explain why, in real life, some of your favorite arrow-shooting characters at best wouldn’t be able to shoot straight and at worst would severely injure themselves.
Link, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
One of the cardinal sins of archery is dry-firing a bow. A dry fire is the process of drawing the bow’s string back and then letting go without an arrow in place. A normal bow draws back to a conservative estimate of 30 to 40 pounds of tension created by the bending of the bow. As such you’re holding those pounds on your fingers. If you let that go without an arrow on it, all that energy comes rushing back into the bow, which could potentially shatter its limbs (the long ends of the bow), break the string, and/or make a god-awful sound. Think a tiny thunder roll in your hand. In rare cases, this could become dangerous to the archer, especially if the string snaps near the face, but more likely would it vibrate your arm and be more harmful to your bank account.
Whenever Link runs out of arrows, he pulls back his bowstring anyway. In the game, doing this is pretty useful to scope out enemies and such, but once he’s finished, Link just lets go of the string. Knowing how delicate weapons are in Breath of the Wild, this is a bad idea. What we see in the game as a cute little “ping” would be a disaster in real life; if your bow didn’t break, you’d have to spend the next 30 minutes checking for signs of damage. Life lesson: If you need to observe something, just use the Sheikah Slate.
Arthur Morgan, Red Dead Redemption 2
If you’ve ever tried archery, you know it’s not easy. In fact, you’d be surprised at how incredibly difficult the sport is. In Red Dead Redemption 2, poor Arthur Morgan is handed a longbow and told to hunt deer with it. Not only is Arthur a complete beginner, but generally speaking, longbows are the hardest bows to consistently aim at a stationary target, let alone a frolicking one.
As a novice, there is no way Arthur would be able to shoot a deer in the head from more than 15 meters away. His release is also trash. He splays out his hand and shoots his shoulder and elbow far back enough to knock out any comrades nearby. All in all, Arthur Morgan, the beefiest character on the list, should stick to two other types of shots: the bullet kind, and the ones he takes with Lenny.
Aloy, Horizon: Zero Dawn
Game developers love to make a character look and feel good. Often, to get a point across, you might see an exaggeration of visual features that are important to a character. For Aloy, this is her fletchings. Fletchings, or vanes, are the feathers or plastic things you see on the end of the arrow, designed to help your glorified stick fly more predictably through the air. They’re really useful and pretty important when it comes to archery, but Aloy’s are ridiculously oversized. If you were to have fletchings that big, your arrows would be more unpredictable, as they would ricochet off the bow to the left. Or every arrow’s fletchings would be ruined, and your arrow damaged. Aloy, we get that you’re an archer—just tone down the feathers, okay?
Pit, Kid Icarus: Uprising
Pit’s bow is gorgeous but comically impractical. Made out of two swords jointed at the hilt, it is the most dangerous bow on this list, and not for the right reasons. Bows aren’t nearly as elegant as you might assume. Carry a lightweight object that’s close to your own height in just one hand, and accidents are bound to happen. I don’t know of any archer who hasn’t accidentally bumped someone else or themselves with their bow, and when your bow is made out of two menacing blades, the outcome could be gory.
Another labored part of archery is loading an arrow onto the bow. In every game, show or movie, loading a bow seems swift and beautiful, but in reality it is quite fiddly. You’d need to check the orientation of the arrow was correct before “nocking” or fixing the arrow to the string, all of which takes at least a couple seconds. Orientation of the arrow matters because otherwise the arrow’s fletchings will graze the rest of the bow, compromising its flight path.
When nocking an arrow, you’d also have the bow down by your leg. I actually rest mine on my thigh to hold it steady. Even if an archer were to hold the bow away from their body when loading an arrow, bringing their arm up to shoot would mean swinging a blade past their leg to aim. Pit loading an arrow in a flurry of movement without nocking the arrow wrong or slicing himself is improbable at best, and a quick amputation at worst.
Hanzo is a really difficult character to critique, because if you’ve ever played Overwatch, you know his third- and first-person techniques are completely different. In third-person, Hanzo holds the bow upright; in first-person he holds it sideways. Holding a bow sideways deeply limits the draw length of the bow because your body is in the way. You can only pull back as far as your torso is away from the bow, whereas holding it upright means you can pull back to your face or further. It’s also hazardous to your arm’s health. I once met a girl who tried shooting sideways, who proceeded to show me a photo of the damage she did to her arm. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m sure Hanzo’s arm wouldn’t be either.
Normally, another issue that I would have with Hanzo would be the lack of an anchor point, which is a specific place on your body you “anchor” your hand to in every shot for consistency. Anchor points are important for any archery that doesn’t require a sight, because it helps an archer reference to where they should pull back. In Hanzo’s style of modern barebow, the anchor point will often will be on the face—you’d use a finger to touch the corner of your mouth, or a tooth.
However, I cannot fault Hanzo for his lack of an anchor point, because Hanzo is Japanese, and the Japanese have a particular version of archery called kyūdō. It’s an art form, really, and those that perform it have a different way of achieving accuracy, basically relying on dedicated practice. The masters of kyūdō don’t rely on a physical anchor point as most archers do; they pull the string back to somewhere near the face and let loose.
I’ll give Hanzo the benefit of the doubt and say he’s a kyūdō master. But what I can’t forgive is the weight of his bow. Hanzo grits his teeth and shakes like he’s experiencing an earthquake every time he shoots. This indicates that he is way too weak to be handling his bow, especially if he were trying to shoot high-quality arrows on a battlefield. You’d get really tired really quickly, and your aim would be affected by a lack of stability—not to mention the backache you’d feel the next day. Fixes include getting a new bow or going to the gym, so unless Hanzo wants to trade in his weapon, he might need a few protein shakes here and there.
Ellie, The Last of Us
Every other character on this list should be ashamed for being shown up by a 14-year-old. Ellie is the most realistic archer in any of the games on this list. Every shot looks almost exactly the same. She is consistent and precise. The further away you aim, the more the arrow drops on the way there. Arrows break, which they would in real life if you hit bone.
Ellie is no doubt the best. My only gripe with her is the back quiver, where she stores her arrows. I understand that Ellie might not have the time to find a better solution, but in general, back quivers are pretty stupid. You can’t see the arrows, for one, so if you were in a combat situation, every time you wanted to fire, you would have to reach back, maybe stab your hand on the end of an arrow, fiddle around to find an arrow, pull it out at a really awkward angle, and then shoot it. Not to mention the fact that you might not notice if you didn’t have any arrows left.
Back quivers also make collecting arrows an issue, because trying to place a stick in a pocket on your back is hard. How about when you’re trying to be stealthy? When you bend down, it’s very likely they would just slide out, clatter to the ground, and hey presto, Ellie would be dead. It would be a shame, too, as she would do well in an archery competition.
Ellie could instead use a field quiver, which goes around the waist and often has a lot of room for tools. Field quivers are unfortunately quite loud when it comes to movement, since arrows tend to rattle when loose, so my recommendation for Ellie would be a bow quiver. It’s an attachment to your bow to hold your arrows directly on the “riser” (the handle) in a fixed position. Advantages include no clattering of arrows, easy access to arrows, and a constant visual of ammunition—not to mention making the bow look a lot more impressive.
Lara Croft, Rise of the Tomb Raider
Gaming’s legendary heroine is also the pinnacle of bad video game archery. Rise of the Tomb Raider smushes so many mistakes into this one gameplay mechanic that you’re going to need to buckle up, because I can’t hold back.
Lara Croft, explorer extraordinaire, has to do a lot of sneaking around to find the very best a tomb may have to offer, as well as killing a couple of unfortunate souls on the way, and a compound bow is often her weapon of choice to get the job done. Up until now, most bows we’ve seen on this list are simply a stick and some string. Compounds are the more complex, more technical younger brother of the traditional bow. They require a complicated mixture of “cables” (string) and “cams” (rotating discs that the cables sit on), from which they get the name “compound.” They’re faster and more accurate.
A compound bow has a couple other crucial advantages that make it an accurate and deadly weapon. The biggest thing is that its draw length, the distance between the bow and the string when it’s pulled back to the face, is specific to the archer using it. It’s basically custom-fit. Once you get it back to that draw length you can’t pull it back further without damaging the bow or compromising yourself.
The problem Lara displays is something you can demonstrate to yourself with a little audience participation. If you put your left arm straight out to the side, and your right hand by your chin/jawline, the distance between those two places is about what your draw length should be. That is indeed the distance Lara’s bow comes back to. Now put that right hand by your left armpit. That’s a significantly shorter distance, right? Well, when Lara crouches down, the string goes straight through her armpit to make up for this distance issue.
The draw length being specific means you also shouldn’t draw short. The way a compound is designed means there’s an arc of “weight” to the bowstring. It’s really light when you start drawing, then gets really difficult to pull back, but becomes light again when you reach your draw length. Drawing about halfway, which Lara often does, means that holding the bow would be an incredible struggle, if not incredibly stupid. The accuracy of the shot would decrease—not to mention the fact that Lara’s arm gets in the way of the string.
This isn’t even the biggest issue I have with Lara’s shot, because Lara has a sight on her bow that she doesn’t use. When standing with the bow upright, she pulls it to the side of her face, looking down the length of the arrow to aim. That’s not necessary, and is less accurate, when you have a sight on the bow. When Lara crouches, the sight is oriented sideways, so she actually can’t see down it.
Her bow itself has another problem. There are arrow rests that can hold an arrow in place no matter what the orientation of the bow is, but Lara’s bow doesn’t have those, meaning that arrows should be falling right off of her bow in many situations. And yes, she even uses a back quiver. Ultimately, our Tomb Raider would be the worst character on this list emulate if you were going to pick up a bow.
I know that many people don’t care how accurate archery is in video games, but as an archer, this has been therapeutic for me. We’re always on the lookout to see how accurately our sport is represented in games, and are often disappointed. All I can really end this on is asking you to go out and try archery for yourselves. It’s a fantastic sport, especially if you hate running. Please, however, listen to archers when they tell you not to try the version of archery you see in games. You’d likely hurt our pride—as well as your body.
Calypso Mellor is a freelance journalist with a passion for point-and-clicks, piano, and puns. You can often find her in a field shooting a target from fairly far away, or alternatively on Twitter @imomellor.
Today, Blizzard introduced Sigma in an animated story trailer. “Gravity is a harness,” Sigma says in the trailer. “I have harnessed the harness.” But that wasn’t enough for him, so he decided to try and double-harness the power of a black hole. That, however, appears to have driven him mad, or at least stuffed his brain so full that it’s like an overflowing bowl of mashed potatoes.
Like many a great mad scientist before him, Sigma is evil. Specifically, the trailer ends with him standing alongside Widowmaker, Sombra, Moira (who’d be the obvious ship if we weren’t all 99 percent sure she’s gay), and other members of Overwatch’s Talon organization. But, Blizzard adds, there’s a twist: Sigma is apparently “unaware” that he’s “being used as a living weapon.”
We’ll almost certainly find out more about how he plays later this week.
Today, a pre-recorded Overwatch League video leaked sharing news that Blizzard is apparently implementing role-locking in Overwatch and the Overwatch League. It is currently unclear how role-locking will manifest in the game itself.
Starting soon, all team compositions in the Overwatch League will consist of two damage-dealers, two supports, and two tanks, explained league staffers in the leaked video. The decision was made because “the more that we can do to keep the pro experience in Overwatch League consistent with the live game experience of Overwatch players, the better from the Overwatch League perspective,” explained Overwatch senior product director Jonathan Spector.
The dramatic shift may not come as a surprise to lots of fans; hints have been dropped for months. Before quitting the league, former pro Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek apparently confirmed it. The esports site Upcomer did, too, in a report where they spoke with several internal sources. And before announcing tonight’s Overwatch League broadcast, where the news was apparently slated to air, three Overwatch league casters each threw up a peace sign—2-2-2.
What might rattle even the most tuned-in fans was Spector’s comment that “2-2-2 is coming to the game soon” in what he describes as the “biggest change that’s happened in Overwatch since they added the one-hero limit.” Without more details, it seems like the rule will be implemented in the game, meaning regular players will be asked to follow the pros’ lead and specialize in a certain class map-by-map. It’s unclear whether this will be across the board or simply in the game’s competitive mode. On the Overwatch subreddit, players are expressing cautious optimism.
Role-locking will come as a welcome change for Overwatch league fans who are sick of the dominant “GOATS” meta, an unflashy playstyle of three tanks and three supports. Without Widowmaker’s hype headshots or Tracer’s zippy time-turning, players became bored of tuning in to the same old compositions over and over for months. Those opposed to role-locking’s implementation would argue that GOATS was already on its way out. Damage-dealing heroes like Sombra and Pharah were insinuating themselves more and more into the meta; who’s to say that Tracer might not come back, too?
In the leaked video, Spector says that the Overwatch League team let pro players vote on implementing role-locking. “An overwhelming majority of the teams supported the approach that we’re taking here,” he says.
For fans tired of playing support when four players insta-lock DPS, or fans excited to play tank knowing they’ll have two supports behind them, role-locking will unlock a version of the game they believe best represents its core. Others who prefer a more molten and chaotic meta might find Blizzard’s unilateral decision stifling. For my part, I can’t wait to see Saebyeolbe back in action.
Out of all the characters recreated in plastic for Hasbro’s first wave of Overwatch action figures, the hands-down, hammers-up best is the super-sized Reinhardt with his gorgeous mech suit and dinner plate-sized shield. The only way it could be better would be if we could see the old man’s pretty face. Oh hi there, San Diego Comic-Con Reinhardt Bundswehr version.
Hasbro hit the jackpot when they secured the license for Overwatch action figures. Not only does the toymaker have the rights to make figures based on the entire roster of Blizzard’s hero shooter, they also have a well of variant figures based on the game’s bountiful array of cosmetic skins. That means masked Anna and unmasked Reaper from the first wave, which I reviewed earlier this year, aren’t the end-all, be-all. This new version of Reinhardt is posing plastic proof.
Available exclusively at the Hasbro booth during San Diego Comic-Con, the Bundswehr version of Reinhardt strips the mask off of Overwatch’s best tank, letting the poor old man breathe easy for a bit. The eight-inch tall figure comes packaged in a large box, frozen against a cardboard backdrop of combat chaos.Reinhardt’s hammer, which is gold instead of the silver and gray of the original figure, sports a translucent yellow impact effect. It’s a lovely box, the sort that collectors might want to keep sealed for shelf display.
For me, however, a toy is not a toy until I’ve played with it, so I tore open the packaging and grabbed some glamor shots of Herr Wilhelm. Old and scarred with a neatly-trimmed beard and slicked-back hair, the unmasked version of Reinhardt is who I aspire to be when I am slightly older. Just gotta figure out the whole hair thing.
And yes, the package also includes my favorite toy accessory of the year, the microwave-safe platter shield, complete with painted wolf emblem.
This German military service version of Reinhardt is available at Hasbro’s booth at SDCC for $60. I imagine it’s also on eBay, selling for around *checks price* $100. More importantly, he’s a harbinger of things to come in Hasbro’s Overwatch Ultimates figure line. We’re going to be up to our pauldrons in variants, you guys.
If you tuned into the Overwatch League’s Friday games, you probably saw dozens of esports fans decked out in rainbow garb or flashing LGBTQ-themed signs as soon as the camera turned their way. It was Pride Day for the Overwatch League—a day that Overwatch publisher Blizzard put on for fans to “come together for diversity and inclusion,” they said in their announcement.
But Korean fans who tuned in saw something a little different: a business-as-usual Overwatch League broadcast with no pomp or circumstance.
According to two Overwatch League insiders with knowledge of the broadcast, leading up to last year’s Pride event, American and Korean Overwatch League broadcast professionals discussed how the celebration would come off to audiences in Asia. For “cultural reasons,” said a source, Blizzard’s Korean team and regional broadcast partners made the decision to minimally broadcast expressions of Pride Day at Blizzard Arena last year. It’s possible these reasons are related to South Korea’s conservatism on LGBTQ rights. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, nearly 60 percent of the country is against same-sex marriage, which is not legal there. (In the U.S., only about 33 percent of people disapprove.)
This year’s Korean and American broadcasts were different as well, with the American one celebrating Pride and the Korean one strangely, well, not. Fans’ signs weren’t prominent, and according to two people who know Korean, there was little or no mention of Pride Day on the Korean broadcast. Korea’s Pride Day broadcast did not appear significantly different from normal, but the hype and expressive Pride Day celebrations in Blizzard Arena do seem to be played down, something two sources say was, at least last year, intentional. Blizzard did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.
“We didn’t shoot the arena any differently than we would on any other day…We didn’t go out of our way to avoid signs, fans, atmosphere,” the second insider explained of the American broadcast. “Our Korean partners were aware of the event that [was hosted] in the arena and were allowed to make whatever decision they felt was appropriate for their broadcast based on that info.” The insider added that “We gave the regional leads and their broadcast partners the autonomy to present their portion of the program as they felt best.” The broadcast out of California is the master broadcast, and most of what is added to or deviates from it is done in local markets. For example, each team has different casters, graphics, and desk segments.
Last year was the League’s first Pride event. “We’re excited to get into the spirit of diversity and inclusion throughout the day,” read Blizzard’s event description. In the Blizzard Arena, fans expressing support for queer individuals carried signs reading “Gays into the iris,” “Bi Pride,” “Play of the Gay” and “Hi gay, I’m Dad.” In the foreground, casters like Chris Puckett wore rainbow wristbands. This year, the Pride Day broadcast was even more direct in its celebration. On the livestream, Puckett says, “Today is Pride Day and we are celebrating the mutual support between the Overwatch League and the LGBTQ community here at the Blizzard Arena…The Overwatch League prides itself on welcoming fans from all walks of life regardless of background or lifestyle. Today, we want take a moment to acknowledge some of the biggest fans in the LGBTQ community.”
On Blizzard’s merchandise site, the company sold Pride pins to benefit the Trevor Fund, a suicide prevention organization for young, queer people.
Overwatch League also celebrated one dedicated queer fan in a video. Of Blizzard, he says, “It’s great they’re upfront. Ther’s a lot of queer space in this game. I think it’s great that the Overwatch League, as a new organization, is being part of the vanguard celebrating Pride so openly. Traditional sports are not as forward with their Pride events as the Overwatch League. I think that makes Overwatch League stand out.”
Although it makes sense for Blizzard to cater to what they believe their audience’s tastes are, one insider says that if Blizzard wants to be a force for change, they might have to make bolder decisions. Overwatch’s most prominent character, Tracer, canonically dates a woman. Yet in 2019, as game companies finally begin to better represent the people who play their games, it can be hard to tell whether these moves are fueled by market analyses or genuine enthusiasm for fans’ multivaried backgrounds.
Said the insider, “I think the message of Pride is, ‘Hey, you are not alone. Nothing is wrong with you. You are welcome here.’ It is for all those people who are told otherwise. People who doubt their own feelings and thoughts. To say it to only America or EU doesn’t help that kid in Korea or China. A leader stands up. Either Blizzard is leader on this subject or it is cheap marketing.”
This information comes straight from the dear child Overwatch’s doting father, Jeff Kaplan. He published a list of the most popular Workshop modes on Overwatch’s forums, and they actually include quite a few variations on games played by children in the mid-to-late 1900s. The top spot goes to Uno, but number two is a version of The Floor Is Lava, and number three is a McCree-flavored take on Hot Potato. Here are the top modes in the North America and Europe regions:
Floor is lava parkour
McCree hot potato
Floor is lava
Emote to kill
D.Va space battle
Play as two heroes
Bastion turret ffa
Flappy Bird (a different version)
Super Smash Bros.
People have spent a total of 1,370 hours playing Unoverwatch across 1,556 matches. This puts it ever so slightly ahead of “Floor is lava parkour” and “McCree hot potato,” which have 1,246 and 1,048 hours respectively. In the name of science and understanding, I tried out Uno, and yep, it sure is Uno. Heroes are rooted to the ground and can draw and discard cards into the well on Ilios. The goal is to discard your hand as quickly as possible. There are some fun effects like fire and ice, but otherwise it’s a pretty standard digital adaptation of the classic game, albeit slightly more impressive than it sounds because somebody managed to convert a team-based hero shooter into it.
Kaplan acknowledged that this list has some surprising omissions. For instance, aim-practice modes have become very popular, but not a single one made it into the Workshop’s upper echelon. Kaplan has a theory as to why. “This may be a result of consolidation,” he wrote. “There is only 1 version of Uno floating around, but hundreds of accuracy trainer variations.”
He also published a list of the top modes in Korea, where people seem to be spending far more time with various modes than in North America and Europe. The top mode there is called “High Blood Pressure Marathon,” and players have spent a total of 5,447 hours with it. Kaplan said it’s “a mode with no cooldowns, infinite ultimates, and some other crazy things mixed in.” That sounds rad as heck? Meanwhile, we’re over here sitting in organized little circles, literally unable to move, playing Uno. What happened? Is everyone in North America and Europe just really old?
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
I’ve begun to think of my weekly, local Super Smash Bros. tournament as a sort of doctor’s appointment for my ego.
Regulars tell me that it’s normal to just win one or two games at these things, yet selection bias mandates that the people who attend a lot tend to be confident that they’re really, really good or that they’re on the pathway there. The only way to learn, the wisdom goes, is to get pummeled over and over by people better than you until—through smarts or osmosis or telepathy—you identify and absorb why they win. Better yet, they might just tell you to your face.
I met a guy at one of these things whom I’ll refer to as “Inkling senpai.” He and I main the same Super Smash Bros. fighter—Splatoon’s Inkling—except he’s on another level. He always places third or fourth in the total standings, beaten only by possessed Smash players whom I assume sacrificed something to some demon.
He’s also all about feedback, always offering it in an upbeat tone with a lot of smiles and encouragement. “You need to throw an ink bomb every time your opponent is off-stage,” he told me once. “You’re not adapting; you’re being predictable.” Once, he said, “I downloaded you.”
I graciously accept Inkling senpai’s feedback and do my best to hold it in the top of my mind even while, on the ground floor of my brain, my impulses are firing off faster than I can consciously keep track. Slowly, I honed my back-airs and edge-guarding until my toolkit became more menacing. I’ll fling an ink bomb off-stage and, sometimes, it’ll knock the opponent into the ether, earning me a win. Last night, I placed fourth.
In my experience, competitive gaming meetups are one of the only venues where people (complete strangers, even) give each other clear, cut-and-dried feedback. Not just the basics like “you suck” or “great job”—thoughtful analyses of what you’re doing and whether it’s getting you where you want to be. In other situations in life, people might not give it to you straight. If you really flubbed your lines in the school play, your parents might say that it wasn’t even noticeable. When your going-out outfit is too much, your friends might laugh, telling you, “What a look!”
I’ll never forget when, at my first Magic: The Gathering tournament, an opponent who had just beaten me meticulously and tonelessly pointed out every single bad move I made before taking my deck in his hand and pulling out the cards he thought weren’t helping. At first, I was offended, sorting some of them back into my deck. That’s not a normal thing to do, I thought, even though he clearly meant no harm. Then, as I moved to sit across from my next opponent, I remembered some of his advice—leaving my mana untapped until after the attack phase—and ended up beguiling this new challenger into my first win. It’s hard to say whether the stranger was right to offer unsolicited feedback, but it’s arguable that, just by entering the tournament space, he and I shared the same goal of improving. In the end, I left the hobby shop that day with a score that made me proud.
Rare are the circumstances where nearly everybody in a given room is there to grow, sincerely and whole-heartedly. It’s like living through a montage training scene in a shonen anime, but real life includes all the mundane feedback that the video editing skips over. You have to put aside your ego, and so does whoever’s offering counsel. Feedback can be as toneless as your doctor checking your blood pressure, as thoughtful as your best friend telling you that going blonde would clash with your wardrobe.
Then I log onto Overwatch, a separate realm where unsolicited feedback is king, despite the fact that few people can accurately pinpoint why their team lost. Most of the feedback isn’t helpful, or isn’t coming from a place where that matters. It’s a team-based first-person shooter, so players don’t always have a great vantage point on what their teammates are doing. And because it’s six versus six, a player might not die because they suck; it could be that their healer wasn’t healing well enough, that their tank wasn’t adequately positioned, that their damage-dealer wasn’t taking down their targets. On top of this, Overwatch is an online game. Anonymously and physically distant, players can be needlessly rude without having to see their teammates’ crestfallen faces. Regularly, I hear players elevating “blunt feedback” onto the level of straight-up harassment.
Prescribing rules around feedback is tricky, since it depends on a given person’s tolerance for criticism and personal gaming goals. (Competing online as opposed to in-person, however, does seem to make a difference from an empathy standpoint.) There’s a way to do it with love that makes your gaming community more supportive and more powerful. There’s also a way to do it spitefully, with an overtone of superiority and abuse.
For me, the sweet catharsis of knowing what I did wrong fills my losses with purpose. Just make sure to ask me if I want to know first.
The Overwatch League’s founding commissioner, Nate Nanzer, announced on Friday night that he is leaving one of the most-hyped pro esports leagues in the world. The news was first broken by ESPN, which reported that Nanzer is leaving the league for the team-based shooter to join Epic Games to work on competitive Fortnite.
“This has been the toughest decision of my life, because it means I won’t get to work with the best staff, players, teams, owners, partners, and fans in esports anymore,” Nanzer said on Twitter last night.
Nanzer has overseen a league that has been aggressively promoted by Overwatch’s developers and publishers at Activision Blizzard and saw its first season capped out with a packed stadium event in Brooklyn, New York last summer.
Nevertheless, questions linger about whether viewership and attendance at glitzy competitive esports events like the Overwatch League can sustain the cost of business. Overwatch League has been pushed as an expanding business with a plan for teams to start playing in their home cities, instead of all in Burbank, starting next year. [Correction – 9:40am: This article originally said the teams played in Anaheim; apologies for the error.]
An Epic spokesperson confirmed to ESPN (and later to Kotaku) that Nanzer is heading to their company to work on competitive Fortnite. The move is another sign of the strength of Epic’s ubiquitous battle royale game but also of Epic’s need to improve its approach to Fortnite esports, which, young a scene as it is, has been beset by cheating and is in a state of unusual flux as its organizers experiment with the rules of play.